Thursday, March 30, 2006
Beware of mom's home cooking
For years, restaurant kitchens have been the target of health inspectors, but now the Los Angeles Health Department is targeting your kitchen. They have designed an online food safety test, just like the one used to rate restaurant kitchens. But this time you can test your own kitchen.

We recently put three Los Angeles area kitchens to the test.

L.A. Health Inspector Hector De La Cruz came along as we raided refrigerators and poked through people's cabinets. We took samples along the way of lots of stuff: homemade chicken barley soup, dish towels, sponges, rare steak, even a fly swatter one guy hung with his clean pots and pans (yuck!).

A lab in New Jersey put our samples under the microscope and you won't believe what showed up. One pot of mom's homemade soup had 50 times more bacteria than is expected in prepared foods. Working this story made me want to go home and scrub my kitchen from top to bottom.

When was the last time you looked closely at what may be lurking in your kitchen? And what do you think a real health inspection may turn up??
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 12:21 PM ET
  19 Comments
I as with most Americans have an impeccably clean kitchen, I would be willing to eat off the floor. There would be little if any germs found in it.
If I remember correctly they tested Anderson Cooper´┐Żs office desk once on CNN and found it had 500 times the healthy limit.
Posted By Anonymous Brant, Madison, Wisconsin : 12:43 PM ET
...Oh, better yet. If your kitchen is dirty, then higher a few illegal immigrants and have them clean it for next to nothing. It is the American way: Take advantage of others and let them clean up your messes.
Posted By Anonymous Brant, Madison, Wisconsin : 12:44 PM ET
Am constantly amazed at the number of folks who have never learned to cook; they simple warm food or may know only two or three recipes.

Food hygiene is one of the many things you learn when you learn to cook.
Posted By Anonymous Cassie, Dallas, PA : 1:15 PM ET
It only proves that we spend way too much time and money on food safety than is needed. How many people die from mom's cooking?
Posted By Anonymous Ted, Dallas, Texas : 1:24 PM ET
Ewww, I guess I always knew the kitchen was dirty, but I didn't think it could be that bad. I consider myself a bit of germaphobe, so I when I was dishes I don't use a sponge, I use papertowels. I wash the lids on all of my canned goods, that came from my seventh grade teacher. And I Clorox the counters all the time, but the fridge, that's another story. I'm not sure I really want to know what's in my fridge or on the counters, but the story sounds great.
Posted By Anonymous Kimberly Miller, Lancaster, PA : 1:30 PM ET
This is the reason why when people bring food to the office that they say they made themselves, at home, I don't eat it. Eating out is risky enough, but at least now you feel like "someone" is watching and the restaurants are trying harder to keep things in the kitchen sanitary.
Posted By Anonymous Rsmith, Los Angeles, CA : 1:34 PM ET
If people spent as much time worrying about cleaning the environment and keeping it "clean" as they are about nit-picking their kitchens, we'd be living in paradise. Imagine that the world is our house. The atmosphere can be the garage, outer space is the big outdoors. Millions of cars are running 24 hours a day. Does this worry anyone? Grow up people! Your priorities are *completely* off.
Posted By Anonymous Nick, Champaign Illinois : 2:07 PM ET
maybe it's best we don't know!
Posted By Anonymous Mary Denver, CO : 2:15 PM ET
Hmmm probably not as clean as it used to be. I know I don't have bugs. That would be gross. I'm sure I have a science experiment growing in my frig. Yikes, maybe I should clean this week-end!
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago, Il : 2:15 PM ET
Hi Randi,
It just goes to show you that no matter how clean we all think we are we are just one meal away from DOOM. I haven't even recuperated from the last germ brouhaha that AC360 had on their program. Now this! Oh, well...If we all are going to be done in by our kitchens we might as well just enjoy that homemade food, germs and all and top it off with an ice,cold tea...Hold the ice cubes, I hear they are filled with germs just waiting in the wings for their big break..Take Care..Happy dining..
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton,Calif. : 2:43 PM ET
Your post reminded me of my late grandmother's kitchen habits: she lived by the old wives' tale that food had to cool completely before you could pack it up for leftovers, so everything she cooked would sit out on the counter for HOURS after we finished eating. I was always afraid to eat something I hadn't seen made fresh myself in her kitchen!

As for my own kitchen, well, I'd like to think it would pass, but I'm sure there's plenty of things I overlook -- though leaving food out is definitely not one of them!
Posted By Anonymous J. Minnick, Southampton, PA : 2:50 PM ET
I just finished my after winter Spring cleaning and believe me, it was disturbing on many levels. Have you ever looked under your refrigerator? All I can say is DON'T!!! I pride myself on being a clean freak, but went into a mild state of shock when I pulled out my stove. I'm not sure I will be able to watch this story Randi. It was hard enough just reading about it.
Posted By Anonymous Cheryl Raleigh, NC : 3:41 PM ET
The thing is, our bodies are used to our own family's germs-- anyone we see regularly. But commercial kitchens have lots of new people coming and going with who knows what on their hands. They are inspected occassionally, maybe once a year, but that doesn't guarantee anything.
Posted By Anonymous Susan, Sunnyvale, CA : 3:48 PM ET
Perhaps, the problem is, that the soup contains meat. A kitchen used only to prepare vegetarian meals would be much more sanitary.
Posted By Anonymous A. Moore St Catharines ON : 4:15 PM ET
This is a lesson my mother taught me since birth- clean while you cook. Germs, dust, and grime don't make anything taste better.
Posted By Anonymous Annie, Brooklyn, NY : 4:49 PM ET
Hmmm! Sounds like a way to belittle women who cook so that those who don't want to cook will have a good excuse for it.

Cooking at home is like anything else, you have to put effort into it. We have automatic washers to wash those sponges and bleaching them kills the germs. We also have dishwashers. A long time ago before it was the norm to have a dishwasher, the family doctor told my aunt to use the heat cycle for drying as it would prevent the germs from the ill family member from spreading to other members of the family. Excuse me now, I have to go and eat my homemade soup. Yummm!!
Posted By Anonymous Christina, Windber, PA : 4:57 PM ET
Remember when baby bottle nipples had to be boiled? We cannot live in a sterile world. We just need to have good kitchen habits keeping clean and properly using refrigeration. And, oh by the way don't forget to use your nose.
Posted By Anonymous Richard Lewis Jenkintown, PA : 5:07 PM ET
My former roommate is from Ireland and she would cook and leave the food, in pots, for days until it was all gone. As far as I know, she never got sick from eating any of it --- and, yes, some of it was meat.
My current roommate has used the same 2 sponges for the last 6 months. I refuse to touch them, am constantly wiping the countertops with my own, cleaned and washed dishcloths, or use paper towels. I can't stand a dirty kitchen but above and beyond just dirt, I feel it is important to use dish cloths that are regularly washed and disinfected and not use the same towel for wiping hands and dishes, which my roommate also does. I'd hate to see what an inspection would show in our kitchen --- luckily, I don't eat there much!!
Posted By Anonymous Micki, Valencia, CA : 6:38 PM ET
Actually, my mother's cooking is rather dangerous even without the extra bacteria (even she would admit this). I think I became a pretty great cook as an act of rebellion and I made a lot of the family meals --including Thanksgiving dinner from the time I was eleven or twelve-- when I was growing up.

I use a great environmentally friendly cleaning product to clean the counters after I cook (any step, no matter how small, to help out the env't is a good thing).

Gotta go clean my kitchen floor so I can watch the segment with a clear conscience. BTW, I hope you will focus not only on possible problems that we might overlook, but also what we can do about them.
Posted By Anonymous Norah Mason, West Chester, PA : 7:51 PM ET
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